“I would do anything for my kids.” This is a common statement made regularly by most parents. And it’s true, within reason, that most of us would do basically anything to put a smile on our little ones’ faces. Even when it means sacrificing our own interests, which it often does.
Upon request (and/or incessant whining) I’ve given my kids my last stick of gum, my last gulp of water, and my last piece of pie. They change the channel when I’m mid show, dictate Italian food when I’m craving Mexican and force me to keep Taylor Swift on the car radio when my ears feel like exploding. And I’m good with all of it, because they’re my babies, and I just want to make them happy.
But sometimes I wonder, is it ok to say no? Specifically, is it ok to say no when the request is easy to accommodate, simply because I’d rather think about my happiness for a moment over theirs? I recently encountered a situation where I needed to make that call.
My husband and I took our little ones out to eat to a restaurant of their choosing, of course. Upon arrival, I read the entire menu to all of my kids, putting no limits on what they could order. They excitedly chose their food, while I reluctantly mulled my unappealing options. Nothing looked like anything I was in the mood for. And then it hit me. A big cobb salad full of bacon. I could taste the bacon and YES, I wanted it. When the waiter finally came over we placed our order, and 30 minutes of terrible service later our food finally arrived.
“Mom, can I have a piece of your bacon” asked one of my sons. “Sure sweetie,” I replied as I handed over a few bites. “Mmmm” he said, as his full entrée sat before him. “It’s so good. Can I have more?” I gave a little more and instructed him that it was time to eat his own food. And then he said it: “No, I just want your bacon. Please mommy.”
I could already picture his grandmothers’ on my shoulder: “Give your child the bacon! He’s hungry! You can get more bacon! What kind of a mother doesn’t feed her child?” But the truth was that the service was so slow, I wouldn’t get more for 20 minutes and I was hungry too. Plus, I really wanted it. I said no, but he cried and said he didn’t want his food and begged to switch with me.
Was the truth that I would do anything for my child, except give him my bacon? Was I entitled to say no when it was so easy to make him happy? I know I’m a pretty giving mother. I’m actually confident that if I ever had an oxygen mask situation, I’d put my child’s on before mine. But sometimes I just want to do what makes me happy.
So while self-sacrifice is constantly expected of parents, I believe in the universal truth that if mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy. So I say that not only is it ok to say no sometimes, it’s necessary! Everyone deserves to occasionally get what they want, including mom and dad. So I ate my food that night, and eventually, my hungry son ate his. And it reminded me of something the comedian Fran Lebowitz once said: only ask your child what he wants for dinner if he’s buying. And to that end I say as long as I’m bringing home the bacon, I’m entitled to eat it too!